Apr 17 2015
GUESTS: Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director of RAICES, and Sameera Hafiz, Legislative and Policy Consultant with the group We Belong Together.
Mothers being held with their children at a detention center in Texas have been on hunger strike this week. It is the second such hunger strike this month. The women, who are primarily undocumented immigrants from Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, say conditions at the center are unbearable.
During the first hunger strike in early April, 78 women signed a hand written letter which read in part, “We came to this country with our children looking for help and refuge and we’re being treated like criminals…And that’s not what we are, we’re not a threat to this country.”
Detainees have complained about the quality of food, the conditions of their imprisonment and even sexual assault by guards. Some women have been held in solitary confinement. Children as young as 2 are being held with their mothers.
The center, designed to hold whole families, has been cast as a humane alternative to prisons. Originally called the Karnes County Civil Detention Center, the prison was recently renamed to the more euphemistic Karnes County Residential Center. Furniture is colorful and kid-friendly. A large painted sign reading “Bienvenidos Welcome” greets people at the door. But the soft façade betrays the fact that it is still a locked facility.
Karnes is being run by GEO group, one of two large private companies that runs prisons and detention centers in the US.
GUESTS: … RAICES stands for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in Texas.
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